Nearly half (47%) of Ontarians still experiencing COVID-related disruption to their employment

2020-09-16   minute read

David Gowling

MNP Consumer Debt Index


Indebted Ontarians urged to seek professional debt advice before borrowing to make ends meet

BURLINGTON, ON – September 16, 2020 – A new poll by Ipsos carried out on behalf of MNP LTD has found nearly half (47%) of Ontarians are still experiencing disruption to either their own work situation or that of someone else in their household in the form of lay-offs, reduced pay, or fewer working hours. Over the past few months, various financial relief measures from the government, banks, and businesses have helped cushion the financial blow of the pandemic for many Ontarian households. However, as these measures evolve or come to an end, the pandemic is still impacting household income for many.

Toronto skyline at sunset with reflection of skyscrapers in the water

“A large number of Ontarians are still experiencing COVID-related disruptions to their household income. For those who were already struggling with debt problems prior to the pandemic, those problems will only be amplified as short-term financial relief runs out and creditors start to collect deferred payments,” says David Gowling, a Burlington-based Licensed Insolvency Trustee with MNP LTD.

Fifteen percent of Ontarians say they are currently working reduced hours or receiving reduced pay, with another eight percent saying someone in their household is experiencing the same situation.

“While we have yet to see data that confirms Ontarians have taken on substantially more debt since the onset of the pandemic, it‘s fair to say some will be forced to depend on credit once government relief and deferral measures run out,” explains Gowling. “This can create a cycle of debt which is difficult to break. The problem is they will be borrowing against future paychecks, ultimately leaving a hole in their next paycheck.”

About one in 10 (7%) Ontarians say they’ve had to postpone payments on bills, credit cards, and taxes. This translates to about 1,032,000 people.

“To those who are already deep in debt and now unable to keep up with payments, I would recommend seeking out professional debt advice immediately, before borrowing more to make ends meet,” says Gowling. He and his team offer free consultations via videoconferencing and by phone to anyone experiencing debt-related financial challenges. 

Gowling says historic low-interest rates may be giving some a false sense of security that will result in increased borrowing. In addition, as eviction moratoriums end, those who are most vulnerable may turn to high-interest credit.

Nationally, 45 percent of Canadians who are currently receiving COVID-19-related government financial support say they will take on more debt in one form or another when that ends, an increase of 10 points since June. Two in 10 say they will use their line of credit (18%, +6) or borrow from friends and family (19%, +3). One in 10 (11%, +4) say they will take out a bank loan. Two in 10 (21%, +4) Canadians will use their credit cards to make ends meet when relief measures end. About one in 10 (8%, +4) say they will use a payday loan service.

“Homeowners in the province will have to make some hard decisions if they were already overleveraged prior to the pandemic,” says Gowling. “Those in fixed-income and lower-income households are going to have an even tougher time. Many can expect significant setbacks for years if they decide to take on high-interest loans to stay afloat.”

Two in 10 (21%) Canadian homeowners say they will be forced to defer their mortgage payments, and 16 percent say they would have to sell their home to make ends meet once COVID-19-related support ends.

“We know the pandemic has caused uncertainty for many. One thing we can be sure of is Ontarians with underlying debt issues are not going to see those issues go away. Yes, the pandemic has provided a temporary delay, but they will eventually have to deal with those debts,” explains Gowling.

He points to the fact insolvencies are down significantly compared to last year as a result of pandemic-related financial support. The latest stats from the Office of Superintendent of Bankruptcy show insolvencies in Ontario were down 36.3 percent in July compared to the same month last year and 4.5 percent for the 12-month period ending July 31, 2020.

Once COVID-related benefits end, insolvencies are expected to increase significantly. According to the survey, about one in 10 (11%, +5) Canadians currently receiving benefits indicate they will declare Bankruptcy if the financial support ends. Around the same number (10%, +3) say they will file a Consumer Proposal to address their debt.

“A Licensed Insolvency Trustee can offer support and guidance on a range of debt-relief options to help individuals choose the best solution for their personal situation. Sometimes, a Consumer Proposal or Bankruptcy may be the right choice, while other times, people simply need help developing a customized plan to manage their debt,” says Gowling.

Government-regulated Licensed Insolvency Trustees provide advice to Canadians struggling financially and, where appropriate, can even help them avoid Bankruptcy by facilitating an agreement with their creditors. They can also guarantee legal protection from creditors through the Consumer Proposal or Bankruptcy process.

“Professional help is available to get Ontarians who are struggling with debt back on track. Debt is not something people have to face alone,” he says.

Those in need of debt advice can visit to book an appointment or to start a live chat.

Other survey highlights include:

  • Nationwide, about one in 10 (7%) say that they’ve had to postpone payments on bills, credit cards, and taxes, translating to about two million Canadians. This proportion reaches 11 percent among those who rent their home. Among those who own their home, 5 percent say they’ve had to defer their mortgage payments.
  • Other plans for when COVID-19-related government financial support ends:
    • Nearly half (45%, -1) of Canadians say they will likely have to cut back on consumer spending and expenses.
    • Three in 10 (31%, +1) say they will use their savings to pay their bills.
    • Fifteen percent (15%, +2) say they will sell assets like their car, investments or rental property.


MNP LTD, a division of the national accounting firm MNP LLP, is the largest insolvency practice in Canada. For more than 50 years, our experienced team of Licensed Insolvency Trustees and advisors have been working with individuals to help them recover from times of financial distress and regain control of their finances. With more than 230 offices from coast-to-coast, MNP helps thousands of Canadians each year who are struggling with an overwhelming amount of debt. Visit to contact a Licensed Insolvency Trustee or use our free Do it Yourself (DIY) debt assessment tools

About the Survey

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between September 1-3, 2020, on behalf of MNP LTD. For this survey, a sample of 2,001 Canadians aged 18 years and over was interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error.

A summary of the national data is available by request.

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